Thursday, August 9, 2018

Giant From The Unknown


My career has been using the rest of my life as a speed bump, so I'm kicking out some freaked out jams, pushing myself to the limit physically with yoga and T25 as a distraction, burning too much incense to dispel rancorous vapors, getting my diet straight (no more snack cakes?), and trying to plan several family vacations because if I don't take a vacation soon I might flip my gourd. Again. I've been saying this too much lately.


After being nominated to do one of those "10 Films in 10 Days" twitter things where I commented that I'm probably the worst person to do that because I 'have crap taste, the attention span of a two-year old, and a complete inability to follow simple instructions', my dodgy memory was jogged, and  I remembered that I never finished watching Giant From The Unknown because I collapsed in a heap in my chair from physical and mental exhaustion, and I never finished writing the review.

Full disclosure: I never plan on watching this film to its conclusion, and you can't make me. My memories of the film are foggy at best, so just try to keep up. 

Two archaeologists I guess and a typical 50s female love interest with no visible personality whose only attributes seem to be the ability to cook and clean for the male leads hunt for a giant murderous conquistador supposedly in this desperately awful horror film.

The male archaeologist points at a map and says "It should be here" which is where he found some sort of Spanish cross on his expedition, and the map has a big X on it that reads "Cross found here", which is always helpful. Meanwhile the love-interest daughter stays behind at the camp to cook and clean because what else could she possibly be good for except the pivotal discovery of the plot point of the film?

After sweeping the area with a metal detector, the daughter checks her appearance in her compact because accidental archaeology demands a crisp lip-line. After she leaves the compact on a log, a conquistador helmet is found under a thin layer of soil. Science!


After a montage of found artifacts, a conquistador skeleton is found with a gasp. No, a gasp didn't find it, someone found it and gasped. I just said she used a metal detector. Jeez. Please stay focused.

Some stock thunder and lightning effects are shown, then the giant conquistador which is not at all a decomposed 400-year old skeleton rises from beneath a suspiciously convenient log. More easily-accessed metal artifacts are found beneath some fallen leaves because I think that's where the art director left them.

The male lead archaeologist and the love-interest daughter stand in front of a matte painting of a lake for romance because when true love strikes like a stock effect bolt-from-the-blue, no expense is spared except in this and every other aspect of this movie.

The giant conquistador gets an eyeful of the daughter's bullet-brassiered silhouette as she changes clothes in her illuminated tent (va-va-voom, you saucy conquistador!), which causes her to accidentally shoot a hole in her cot with a gun.

At this point, I fell asleep, and wandered away forever from this film. I'm assuming everything turned out for the best, but I really don't care that much, and I'd rather you didn't tell me the ending.





Thursday, July 12, 2018

New Wave: Dare To Be Different



Long-time readers of this blog will note that it is often my modus operandi to obfuscate and distract from my complete absence of knowledge on any number of subjects, my lack of human emotion, and my obsessive need to avoid reflection and contemplation through the act of posting a music video. Expect an abundance of the same with this review.

Let's get this whole business about the phrase "New Wave" out of the way. An appropriate catch-all misnomer applied to a disparate number of musical groups, it seemingly describes a genre no band was ever a part of. If used to describe the biggest wave of British groups to hit the Billboard charts since the Beatles, and the wave of North American acts shrugging off the shackles of classic rock tropes, the term fits. Unfortunately, the term has also been saddled with an implied insignificance, and coupled with unfortunate sexism and bigotry: New Wave artists dressed in frilly shirts and adorned themselves with outlandish hairstyles, and they produced lightweight pop tunes filigreed with synthesizer embellishments, which were marketed to young girls and homosexuals. If they embraced the term, the artists' careers were a race against the clock, set to expire and molder like white bread. Even the radio station at the center of the film is quick to say it never called itself a New Wave station. In defense of its stance, the film notes the station broke 700 "new music" artists to the tune of 500 million albums sold. Abandoned, neglected, and ridiculed, New Wave is the Rodney Dangerfield of music genres; never getting any respect.



In operation since the 1950s, WLIR shed their classic rock image, and according to their tagline, dared to be different by buying British import records and playing them on American airwaves, exposing many now-legendary groups to US listeners for the first time. A tiny 3000-watt radio station on Long Island, WLIR was in competition with much larger radio stations in New York, but was miles ahead of them, predicting progressive musical trends and breaking new ground.


Consisting of classic music video clips and interviews with superstars of the era, music producers, industry insiders, and former DJs, New Wave: Dare To Be Different misses very few iconic groups from the era, and features some interesting first-hand stories of making it big from the music groups WLIR helped make world famous.


Some spoiled grapes with interviews from classic rock groups that were cast aside with the new format helps provide a humorous touch of balance.


 New Wave: Dare To Be Different is an fascinating, nostalgic look at an oft-maligned musical genre.



Although not at all relative to this subject, check out my review of the speculative documentary Discovering Bigfoot here:

https://culturedvultures.com/stabford-deathrages-netflix-nasties-discovering-bigfoot-2017/





Saturday, June 23, 2018

Yellow Submarine



We live in strange times. I'm not talking about current events, where seemingly nothing is real. What I'm talking about is that we are currently in an epoch where the young people consider The Beatles to be over-rated.

I just wasn't made for these times.

I was going to list some of the achievements of The Beatles. Between 1964 and 1970, they released 11 Number One albums, 20 Number One singles, held the Top Five positions in the Billboard Charts, appeared in five feature films, and has the most covered song in history with "Yesterday". The list goes on and on, and it's staggering. So I decided against it.

From Wikipedia: Writing for AllMusic, music critic Richie Unterberger recognises the Beatles as both "the greatest and most influential act of the rock era" and a group that "introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century". In Rolling Stone magazine's Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (2001), the editors define the band's influence as follows: The impact of the Beatles – not only on rock & roll but on all of Western culture – is simply incalculable … [A]s personalities, they defined and incarnated '60s style: smart, idealistic, playful, irreverent, eclectic, ...no group has so radically transformed the sound and significance of rock & roll. ... [they] proved that rock & roll could embrace a limitless variety of harmonies, structures, and sounds; virtually every rock experiment has some precedent on Beatles records. Four of their albums are in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time's Top Ten.

Someone might cynically claim that that's "being over-rated", and I would just as cynically recommend that person learn a little musical history further back than last week.


Surreal, hallucinatory, and Dadaesque, Yellow Submarine is filled with zany, nonsensical adventures, as The Beatles travel in their eponymous vehicle to save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies. Cheeky wordplay, double entendres, and sight-gags abound.

Strangely enough, this sinister, terrifying, kaleidoscopic, and joyful film was for children. Could have fooled me. But then there's this:


Referential and self-referential, with snippets from the French National Anthem, Glenn Miller, Greensleeves, and Bach, only a world-conquering creative force such as the Beatles would have the guts to reference themselves, not just once, but twice. Let me remind you this is a pop tune. And how can one not collapse into ugly-faced weeping at the beauty of the harpsichord, the brass, the strings? Impossible. 

And don't get me started on this clip. Gorgeous and revelatory.

*Eleanor Rigby Youtube Video From Yellow Submarine*

Whoops, sorry. Looks like I'm unable to embed or link to a 40-second clip of Eleanor Rigby because I suppose a 40-second clip will keep you from purchasing either the remastered Blu-Ray of Yellow Submarine, or adding another to the 5 million copies of Revolver sold as of 2014. Just imagine the tune. Hum along if you'd like. Relax, and float downstream.

Here's a link to the trailer, as the film is hitting UK theaters for a 50-year anniversary run.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Countess Dracula




I'm thrilled to be contributing to Barry_Cinematic and Realweegeemidget's Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon. It's an honor to be considered worthy for inclusion in the blogathon, and by "considered" I really mean "allowed after embarrassingly pleading and wringing my hands in desperation to be included".

In typical Stabford fashion, I'm cramming my review in at the last minute in spite of nearly three months lead-time because I've been terribly busy reliving my past by being Goth-As-All-Get-Out. Instead of buckling down and writing my review, I've been listening to frightful musics lately, and it feels pretty good to feel this bad.


Thanks to Youtube's algorithms, this disquieting record was introduced to me. According to The Quietus, Ksiezyc (which translates to Moon in Polish) contains a 'magick that imbued their mix of ancient slavic folk music and 20th century minimalism with a melancholy ambience', and it's pretty darn sweet.


I also recently did my morning T25 exercise routine to this album by early-70s freak-folk outfit Comus, again thanks to Youtube's magickal algorithms. Described as "notable for its unique blend of progressive rock, folk, psychedelia, and elements of paganism and the macabre", it's perfect for 25 minutes of sweating to T25 Speed 2.0, since it's akin to the sound of being chased through a skeletal, autumnal landscape by torch wielding villagers. The 70s certainly were freaked out.

However, it's been difficult to listen to any music lately that isn't "The Wheels On The Bus" because the grandchildren have been shrieking to watch Sarah And Duck. They keep shouting, and I quote, 'I DON'T LIKE THIS MUSIC PAHPAH, IT'S DEGENERATE ART!', and I don't need four diapered fascists pointing their fingers at me.


Anyway, Sarah And Duck is an animated cartoon for children, and I've seen every episode 100 times but couldn't tell you what happens in any of them. From what I gather, Sarah is a human child who has adventures with her duck sidekick named Duck, and it's gentle and quiet and rather surreal, with plotlines that often involve baked goods, talking planets, lemons, and shallots. Unfortunately, I fall asleep in my chair watching this program, and it's infuriating because I'm no Martin Crane.



What does this have to do with Countess Dracula? Nothing really. Anyway, on to the review.

To choose a film for the blogathon, I had to Google "Worst Hammer film", and honestly, I wasn't exactly successful. The Hammer studio churned out quite a bit of quality product, and even its less successful films wouldn't exactly fit onto a Worst Films Of All Time list. So I picked the worst reviewed film I could find, and here we are.

The film opens as a peasant gets runs over by the mysteriously-veiled Countess's horsedrawn carriage. Another peasant screams "Devil woman!", at the carriage, and I can certainly relate to that and this seems like a pretty solid way to begin just about any film. At the reading of a will, the Countess is annoyed that her daughter gets half of her husband's estate. The daughter is en route to the Countess's castle, much to the chagrin of the Countess.

It's a good a time as any for the countess to take a bath because it's only been about 30 seconds into the film, and the Countess scalds a wench who couldn't manage to cool her bath, then makes the wench peel a peach. The wench is cut by the knife, and the Countess is splashed by the wench's blood. Through some sort of sorcery, the blood makes the Countess appear decades younger. That sounds like an awful lot of work, when everyone knows all one has to do is keep a portrait of themselves in an attic that ages for them, and save themselves the hassle of gory cleanup. Easy-peasy.


Since baths aren't much to keep the plot moving along, the wench goes missing and so does the Countess's undergarments, and the Captain who has been giving the Countess the old humpty-dumpty tells the wench's hysterical mother to check the whorehouse, causing everyone much consternation.

A bunch of movie happens. At the 26-minute mark, the Countess assumes the identity of her own daughter, even though her daughter is on the way. I had to watch this part three times to get it, because I kept pulling a Martin Crane and fell asleep. Meanwhile, the daughter is kidnapped, and held captive in a filthy hovel. I'm not sure why.

The Captain and some old wizard dude fall asleep playing chess, which is where I fell asleep again. The Countess tries to go all Harlequin Romance Novel with a younger man, but the youth-enhancing effects of virgin blood wears off, turning the Countess into an even uglier, older hag. Suddenly, there's a dance routine in lieu of plot. After a tarot card reading, the Countess stabs one of the  dancing girls in the neck with a large hair pin, so I guess the dancing really did have something to do with it. After regaining her youth, The Countess gets a literal roll in the hay. We're only 40 minutes into this film, and I've fallen asleep at least 3 times, but I was too drowsy to keep track.

The daughter weakly tries to escape her kidnapper, and gets her ankle kissed through the wall of the shack she's held in, because why the heck not. Children discover a nude body. The Countess gets uglier every time the virgin blood rejuvenation wears off.

The Countess has a nightmare as winds and werewolves howl outside her window. Another bellydancer stretches for time. The Countess wanders around her bedchambers shrieking and wailing. I keep falling asleep. My chair is not comfortable.

After applying the blood of a prostitute with an enormous puff to her face, the rejuvenation fails, causing the Countess much distress. The Captain goes to town and purchases a goat and gets an ugly virgin for free. The daughter escapes her captive, and abruptly falls in a creek. Someone finds piles of nude, bloodless corpses hidden behind barrels. The film ends, and I get a terrible crick in my neck.

Featuring extravagant head wear, high collars, plunging necklines, labyrinthine sets, facial warts, a dead protstitute in a closet, and a couple of goats, Countess Dracula resembles a period romance that just happens to have hints of horror, which would disappoint viewers looking for some classic Hammer vampire action. Containing lots of dialogue, some dancing, minuscule amounts of horror, and zero Draculas of any variety, someone at the very end of the film says the phrase Countess Dracula, which is the only time Draculas are acknowledged at all, as far as I can recall. Still, it's atmospheric, but that doesn't quite make up for the slow moving plot.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Phantom Cemetery



He seems like a nice enough fellow. He just happens to look a little like The Phantom Stranger, except not nearly as cool. Who, you ask? Just hold your horses, we'll get to that.


Phantom Stranger is one of my very favorite comic book characters who never seem to ever really do anything (See also the original Mr. Terrific, the original Red Tornado). Spooky and omnipotent, PS lurks in the upper corner of his own comic books, narrating the goings-on, but rarely getting his gloves dirty.



When worlds are threatened, he spontaneously shows up, spouts some heavy mumbo-jumbo, and splits. It's pretty cool, but frustrating. 


Amazon is being haunted by a whole slew of speculative documentaries with alluring titles such as Medieval Paranormal Activity, The Legend Of Borley Church, Paranormal Confessions, and Castle Of Lost Souls, and they all seem to be hosted by this guy who looks like Phantom Stranger, paranormal investigator Chris Halton.

See what I mean?

Castle Of Lost Souls has the intriguing synopsis of an alleged haunting in Saint Briavels Castle, built around 1075, which apparently has dark corridors and dank dungeons where all sorts of tortures, hangings, decapitations, and other horrors have occurred. In spite of watching a majority of the documentary, I don't recall seeing any of corridors, dungeons, or tortures. Paranormal Confessions features a synopsis surrounding a double axe murder at an ancient water mill in the year 1698, where the victims were hog tied to a beam and then butchered. Again, no recollection of seeing any of that.

Anyway, Chris Halton goes to all these supposedly haunted sites, talks a lot, and very little happens, then I fall asleep, slumped over in my chair, usually with a belly full of macaroni and cheese.

So back to the doc, The Phantom Cemetery features Mr. Halton investigating the infamous Bachelor's Grove Cemetery in Chicago, which is said to be haunted by a lady in white. He walks around in the woods, talking about various feelings and impressions he receives. At one point he complains about a negative smell. (Side note: I watch these programs with subtitles, and the subtitle said, "Crossed their pants" which seems to allude to the smells, and that seems fine to me). After many scenes of walking through a forest, he looks at an algae covered swamp, said that the swamp is dead, and a bullfrog jumps out of the water. In spite of the sudden appearance of the frog, I fell asleep.

Chris Halton seems genuinely interested in the history of each location, and in spite of a similar appearance to a certain spectral comic book character, seems like an affable guy. His delivery is profoundly dry, which could prompt a late-night audience with a full belly in a comfy chair to unexpectedly nod off.

Sorry, can't seem to locate trailers for these documentaries, but here's a little something.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Love And Saucers




A VHS enthusiast creates explicit paintings of his multi-decade romance with an extraterrestrial in this disturbing documentary.

Between clips of the classic horror films Son Of Frankenstein and the Uninvited, rather alarming, crudely rendered oil paintings of alien encounters are shown which explores the alleged, unconventional relationship between the painter and a sturdy female extraterrestrial. Some of the highlights include a painting of a figure in the woods surrounded by classic aliens wearing blue jumpsuits, another painting of a young boy looking through the foundation of a house to the legs of aliens wearing blue jumpsuits lurking outside, and one of a woman inserting a rod into the artist's nose.




Difficult to watch but nearly impossible to turn away from, Love And Saucers explores a disquieting viewpoint of a UFO enthusiast subset, one which claims ongoing extraterrestrial contact and arguably "beneficial" inter-species physical relationships, where each encounter grows more outlandish and elaborate with each rendering. Fans of outsider art and Forteana may enjoy the documentary, others will find it off-putting. 




Speaking of Forteana and off-putting subject matter, I said a bunch of stuff over at Cultured Vultures about the speculative documentary Discovering Bigfoot, where I made several jokes about apples and Bigfoot excrement. Check it out if you're into that sort of thing.



Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Gamma People


A car uncouples from a train, and curiously overalled children divert it to an isolated, mountainous country named Gudavia, a land where no trains ever come. The only two passengers on the train car, a boorish American and a stuffy Brit, are apprehended and thrown into a dungeon-like prison for being spies. Meanwhile, scientists in satin jumpsuits armed with an enormous laser gun scientifically impregnate human subjects dressed in odd military garb with electricity, turning them into idiots.

The two men are abruptly released, but they cannot leave the country because Gudavia's sole automobile is being used for official Gudavian business out of the country, which sounds fine. The Brit attempts to send a telegram, but it can't be sent because telegrams are only sent on special occasions. A young girl plays the piano as an oddly Aryan young man scowls.


Suddenly, there is a hubbub in the streets, and an old dude says, "In the end, the murdering will cease", because of course he does, and a guy with an extravagant hat chalks it all up to hysteria. In spite of the hubbub, the hysteria, and the murdering, the Brit wonders aloud about identity of his milliner. Somnambulant figures sneak up on the Brit, and they scatter after someone blows a whistle.


The pair meets up with a scientist with a double identity. This mysterious scientist pulled a disappearing act some time ago due to some sort of political thing (hint-hint, nudge-nudge), and he says some stuff about gamma rays. They then meet a Frau, who has children making monster masks for an upcoming festival, and there's almost nothing sinister about that at all.


Some stuff happens. The Brit chases a boy and falls in some water, the zombie guys throw rocks, a mule makes an appearance, and several people fall off a cliff.

The carnival that is certainly not a special occasion and that was forbidden to happen happens, and it's pretty freaked out, which means it's pretty cool, and the festival-goers wear giant monster heads, which I'm always a big fan of. Don't worry, since it's not too bad it only lasts a couple of minutes.

The Gamma People is a comic thriller, and it isn't particularly comic or thrilling.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Miami Connection

Scattered around my home are many small journals. They're on shelves, stacked on end tables, and they fill various drawers and cabinets. Within them are my notes on the bad films I watch late at night, scribbled in the dark. They're mostly illegible, written in a shorthand I often struggle later to decipher. I try my best to finish the reviews, but sometimes one will slip by me. This is one of those reviews.


In a city where everyone seems to know martial arts, dudes sit around and wait for a nighttime delivery. Ninjas approach. Surprise! They're delivering drugs, and it's not very surprising. Suddenly, a henchman gets a throwing star stuck in his neck as a repetitive synth soundtrack plays. Disposable extras appear on motorcycles, resulting in a terrible gun battle and sword fight. A band named Dragon Sound consisting almost entirely of John Oates lookalikes performs shirtless with Linn drum.


A classroom of students at a community college begins programming CPUs as big as a microwave oven, and meanwhile, an unconvincing rumble in the school's parking lot is averted through terrible dialogue. A shouting match at a nightclub ends abruptly. Back at the ninja hideout, ninjas practice ninja stuff, then everyone has lunch. Dragon Sound performs another song with pyrotechnics about ninjas in a style reminiscent of Pat Benatar, which should annoy Pat Benatar.


Carloads of men yell at one another and wave sticks around. Shirtless guys in a room decorated by an inexplicable Leif Garrett poster argue over a letter. Then everyone goes to the beach, gets pelted by shoes, and unappetizingly make out. Back at the community college, people spar in slo-mo. After someone gets their nose pinched by toes, everyone enjoys a Pepsi.

Some guys try to dine-and-dash, and then revealing short shorts and camera shadows make an appearance. After breakfast and more mail, a boom mic appears. Then ninjas run across a bridge.

In the rock'em-sock'em world of Miami Connection, Florida seems soley populated by 40 or 50 male characters and one woman, and they're all martial artists who practice an amusing form of martial arts that always defeats someone with a weapon. Featuring terrible acting, a terrible script, terrible music, terrible cinematography, terrible lighting, and terrible fight choreography, Miami Connection is pretty terrible, and it appears to be made up almost entirely of montage.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Attack Of The Mushroom People


Currently, I'm on hour 3 of listening to La Monte Young's 5-hour long improvised solo piano work The Well-Tuned Piano.

What does that have to do with Attack Of The Mushroom People? Nothing, really.


Just thought I'd throw that out there. Cut to film.

A man is locked away in a psychiatric ward, and he is our narrator, which isn't a good sign. A young woman sings aboard a boat backed by green screen, then the boat hits some rough seas, and then it cuts to smooth sailing. After some turbulent, Gilligan's Island-like ocean footage, people seem to manage playing cards below deck in spite of ship-sinkingly dangerous waves. Piloting the ship is a fellow wearing sunglasses. A female says she's seasick, which prompts someone to decide that's a good enough reason to turn back despite the obvious typhoon.

A giant steamer heads directly toward the tiny ship. Someone weakly waves to try to stop the inevitable collision, but alas, it was just a dream. Finally, lost and adrift without a mast, the castaways discover land. Leaving their boat, they all bellyflop into the beach, as one does when one reaches the shore of a deserted island.

After eating a suspect berry and finding a tiny pool of water, they run slowly along the foggy beach and discover a shipwreck that's just crawling with fungus, which they promptly get all over them. Some half-hearted scientific inquiry follows, where radioactivity is briefly discussed. A giant mushroom in a box is discovered. Sunglass guy goes below and sneakily eats Spam.


After tons of movie, a mushroom person finally appears, shuffling slowly down the hallway toward them. Cut to next morning, and they all claim it was a ghost. Then everyone bickers.

More movie happens, with zero mushroom people or attacks by them. The castaways argue over canned goods.


Mushrooms grow at great speed with dramatic music accompaniment. After a long walk in the rain, someone is talked into eating mushrooms, then showgirls do flips. It's fairly psychedelic, and it's a welcome change of scenery from jungle foliage and button mushrooms. Finally, someone is chased by mushrooms. It's not very interesting.

The mushrooms attack, and it's exactly what you would expect; lots of shuffling and an over-abundance of dusty spores. Someone loses an arm. A few of the mushroom people look like broccoli. The victims take on an appearance of half-human mushroom hybrids. I'm suddenly hungry for stir-fry, or maybe a nice pasta.

https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a31482/mushroom-marsala-bowties-recipe-ghk0311/

A vegetarian chicken substitute would work fine in that recipe, JSYK.

Attack Of The Mushroom People is pretty boring until last last few minutes of the film. Mushroom enthusiasts would be wise to skip right to the bonkers ending.

Friday, March 30, 2018

How To Build A Time Machine



Something alarming happened to me recently. While perusing Wikipedia, as I often do, I stumbled upon an entry for a philosophy called hauntology, and I couldn't be more upset about it. I was under the assumption that I alone was "haunted by the nostalgia of lost futures", and just for once I'd like to be seen as the visionary that I am, and not some Johnny-Come-Lately to a philosophy coined by Jacques Derrida in 1993. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

Here I am, sitting here minding my own business listening to the cheesy, futuristic lounge of Frank Comstock and His Orchestra's "Music From Outer Space", with a tab open to an online emulator for the Roland TR-808 drum machine that I will never use, and watching a documentary about men who are trying to build time machines, and who even does all that? Apparently, not just me, or else these things wouldn't exist. Or would they?


I suppose there are people out there who are "exploring ideas related to temporal disjunction, retrofuturism, cultural memory, and esoteric cultural references from the past", and those people need to get out of my scene and its rich, ironic aesthetic. This town ain't big enough for the both of us.



Again, here I am, trying to be as original as all get-out, and there are others out there that are into "vintage analog synthesisers, library music, old science-fiction and pulp horror programs (including the soundtracks of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop), musique concrète and found sounds, dub and English psychedelia, and 1970s public informational films.", and why are those people copying everything I do? Get out of my scene, you bunch of poseurs.


Here I sit, heartbroken for the lack of hovering, anti-gravity vehicles because you all insist on cars, and lo and behold, someone has already pined over it.


This was supposed to be the future, and it sucks.

Thanks for nothing.

Anyway, How To Build a Time Machine is an interesting documentary about two men who created their own time machines. One guy is a film professional who worked on Pee Wee's Playhouse, and built a hand tooled marble, brass, and mahogany replica of the original machine from the 1960 film The Time Machine directed by George Pal. The other subject of the documentary is a scientist who is attempting to create an actual, working time machine utilizing a ring of lasers that drags a neutron around a circle of light. Throughout the film, explanations of film techniques including stop motion, time lapse, and montage, and discussions of the theory of relativity and black holes are integrated into footage of the building of each machine.

An astonishing moment occurs in the film when the film-maker visits a guy who owns the original time machine prop from the film, and casually shows the collector has the original metal skeleton of the King Kong puppet, and the costume from the 1940s serial The Adventures of Captain Marvel, which caused me to gasp in amazement.


Don't even get me started on how I feel about the new Shazam film, slated for release in 2019, which is in the future. That's a discussion for another day, which will also be in the future.






Anyway, How to Build A Time Machine is a fascinating look at obsession, regret, and the struggle with imperfection.





*All the quotes are attributed to the original wikipedia article on hauntology, found at this link if you're interested, but seriously, get out of my scene.



Friday, March 23, 2018

Vampire Skeletons


Like, honestly, who wouldn't click on a title like that? Vampire. Skeletons.

A documentary about a recent archaeological find of a medieval burial in Ireland where the unfortunate people were mutilated in an effort to keep them from returning as vampires, Vampire Skeletons features footage of archaeological digs and grisly stories of the undead. Oh yeah, and startling images of unearthed graves containing skulls with large stones shoved in the jaws.


Scientists give explanations of how corpses can sometime explode underground due to gasses, and how they make a popping noise above ground. Also, the bodies can also contort wildly in their graves, which give the suggestion the corpses became reanimated. The stones could have been used to keep a soul from reentering the body, becoming undead, and haunting the living.

Through body mutilation, other forms of deviant burials and grisly, lurid folktales, the idea of the undead was actually fostered by the early church, where they allowed villagers to believe souls could escape the horrors of purgatory, climb back into their rotting corpses, and terrorize the living. For instance, a story of recently deceased men who wandered around the countryside carrying their own coffins on their backs was retold. Revenants were heard lurked outside homes calling out to villagers, and then the villagers coincidently died mysteriously of plague some time later. Dead villagers were sometimes tried for crimes supposedly committed after death. The hearts of those rumored to be able to return from the dead were being torn out of their corpses, and when the hearts were burned, ravens allegedly flew up out of the smoke. And lastly, there was a story of a witch sewn up in a stag skin, placed in a stone sarcophagus, wrapped in chains, and having incantations said over her grave for three days. Unfortunately, the Beast rode in on a black horse and swept her away from her grave, which caused the witch to return and haunt the village forever.

Histories of the legend of the vampire are told, complete with accounts of staking, burning, beheading, and other gruesome attempts to keep the undead at bay.

Naturally, the documentary recounts the modern legend of the vampire, with brief footage of Nosferatu and a visit to Whitby Castle, the setting for the Bram Stoker novel Dracula. Vampire Skeletons is a surprisingly horrific documentary, and it's pretty cool.

Sorry, there doesn't seem to be a trailer, but the full documentary is on Amazon Prime.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Zodiac



Mrs. Deathrage uncharacteristically asked to watch this film. First, a little backstory: Over the past few months, we had been accidentally watching History Channel's Hunt For The Zodiac Killer, which is one of those overlong investigative reality programs involving too many recaps and flashbacks following new examinations into the lurid, unsolved serial killings in California during the late 60s. Making five episodes seem like 500, each episode runs over and over ground it has covered to keep eyeballs on the program, and it's extremely effective.


So, when Mrs. Deathrage suddenly expressed interest in the film about the Zodiac Killings by David Fincher, I was pretty thrilled. I was under the impression she was intrigued by the ciphers, the investigation, the killer's maniacal taunting of several California police investigations, and wanted to see Fincher's take on the material.

Obviously, I was somewhat curious as to why she was so interested in watching Zodiac. Unfortunately, I made the terrible mistake of asking. The reason she wanted to watch it is because, and I quote, 'It's full of hot guys', and I really should have known.

I suppose if that is what it's going to take to get my wife to watch a nearly 3-hour long police procedural full of cryptography, handwriting analysis, and unsolvable riddles, then so be it.

This is my third viewing of Zodiac, and every time I get something new out of it. This time, it has come to my attention that composer David Shire used textures from Charles Ives' piece entitled The Unanswered Question to represent the haunted, obsessed cartoonist Robert Graysmith (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), and my mind is blown.


Serene strings provide a steady, unwavering background. A distant trumpet asks a question, seemingly oblivious to the tempo of the strings. The woodwinds try to answer, but ultimately give up in atonal frustration. David Shire could easily have used any unsettling orchestral music to symbolize Graysmith's never-ending search for the answer to Zodiac's puzzles, but to use this specific work adds a lovely, subliminal depth to Gyllenhaal's dissonant, inquisitive character. Amazing. 


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Mercy

Baking could be considered an apt metaphor for my life.

I don't bake. It requires science, which is something I've always been interested in. Unfortunately, science involves a bunch of rules which must be followed. I don't often follow the rules.

My family threw me in the back of a car and drove me out to an ancient flour mill last weekend. I'm not 100% certain why, but I'm assuming someone needed flour. I didn't really need any flour, since I don't bake. The building was a well-preserved, 140-year old, functioning mill, with creaking wood floors and walls equipped with wooden shelves, stocked to bursting with flours, sauces, mixes, and various other things required for baking, and because I'm an idiot, I spent $40 on a couple of bottles of breakfast syrups, a chocolate sauce, and a brownie mix. I'm not sure why. I guess I just got caught up in the atmosphere.

I blame it all on the gingham. Old-timey wooden baskets, lined with gingham fabric, filled with brownie mixes. Yeah, that was probably it.

That gingham will get ya.

A moment ago I was compelled to attempt to bake this ridiculous brownie mix into something edible, which is a ludicrous idea. 95% of the things I bake turn into pastries of regret.

I picked up the mix, and read the instructions. Seems simple enough, "Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 13x9 inch pan. Do not use butter".

It only takes three steps for everything to go wrong.

Becoming irate, I stared at the package. How dare these flour mill people tell me what to do? I'll use butter if I want to, test kitchens and their expertise be damned. And maybe I don't want to use a 13x9 pan? Maybe I'll make the damned thing in a bundt pan, just to show these people and their 140-year old flour mill they aren't the boss of me? I'll throw the lot into a bowl, give it a quick stir, butter the crap out of a bundt pan, sling the slop into it, angrily jam it into the oven, and then be completely surprised when the results are less than desirable.

Reconsidering, I put the mix back into the cabinet. Mrs. Deathrage should handle this, I think. I don't really want any brownies right now anyway.

It's not the brownies, really, or the flour mill. And it's not as though I can't follow a recipe.

When I cook, I follow recipes all the time. Sort of. Well, with a few modifications. And a tweak or two. And some substitutions.

Upon reflection, maybe I really can't follow a recipe.

It starts out fine, then I'm all like, "Like hell I'm doing that. I'll do this instead. It'll turn out OK". But with cooking, substitutions can be easily made. It doesn't work that way with baking. I'm not sure why, and I don't want anyone to explain it to me.

So the metaphor is this, I think. Even though I have the recipe, and I know how it might turn out, I'll throw caution to the wind to do it my way, rushing headlong into realms I know to avoid, only to be greeted with culinary disaster. And then drive to the bakery and buy brownies made by a brownie professional anyway. Is that even a metaphor? Who knows?

Anyway, speaking of creaky old buildings filled with disaster, I watched the Netflix thriller Mercy quite some time ago, and never got around to finishing the review. Maybe I should've left it in the cabinet. Here it is anyway.


Four asshole brothers and their crotchety father bicker in a lonely farmhouse over the fate of their seriously ill, bedridden mother in this not-quite-thrilling thriller.

The relationship between the two pairs of morose, mono-syllabic, squabbling brothers is explored for the first half-hour, where they are concerned about getting cut out of an inheritance once their mother kicks the bucket, and it's established fairly quickly that everyone standing upright is an enormous ass.

The other female character that isn't silent and trapped in a bed is slightly introduced and her relationship with one of the interchangeable brothers is momentarily hinted at, and her only reason for being is to be endangered in the woods later and briefly advocating for the comatose mother.

One brother awakens to find the TV on, the phone cord ripped out, the side door open, all their tires flattened, and the half-brothers missing, when a duo of masked villains are shown lurking in the woods. Breathless running and shaky cam commences, and dialogue consisting of 'Go, go, go.' and 'C'mon', occurs.

Just to keep everyone up to speed, let's take a quick roll call of the characters so far. There's been one doctor who makes house calls, one dad, two brothers, one female to be endangered later, two half-brothers, and one groaning, invalid mother. While I'm no fan of math, one would have to assume that the masked villains would be two of these 8 characters.

At 49 minutes, the movie reboots and attempts to fill in the blanks, which are numerous, resulting in algebra. While I appreciate the attempt, and find the ploy interesting, I still have many problems with this.

First, I don't think the filmmakers have ever spent the night in an old farmhouse in the country. It's very dark. It's very quiet. Farmhouses creak loudly, even when masked intruders aren't wrecking the place. I once spent the night in a supposedly haunted Shaker village turned hotel complex, miles and miles from the nearest bakery, where the guests' collective idea of a raucous good time was sitting in a rocker and knitting, and I swear I could hear every person in the arthritic, nearly 150-year old building breathing, even through the ear-shattering roar of my own metropolis-induced tinnitus.

Remarkably, even though parts of the farmhouse in Mercy are broken by boot-wearing villains, furniture is abruptly rearranged, people plummet down stairs, and wrestle in claw-footed bathtubs; no one seems to wake up. I ate a pecan pie in bed while watching horror films on my computer at 9 pm because there was fuck-all to do while staying at the Shaker village, and I was worried my chewing might disturb the rest of the building, but not that concerned to stop eating, leaving pie crumbs in the rather spartan Shaker-style bed, or that anything might stop the knitting. Side-bar: The next morning at the Shaker village, there was a goat-milking seminar that I avoided.

OK, so I guess I really only have one problem with the plot, and it involves home improvements, or the lack thereof.

No, wait. Like nearly all of the episodes of Scooby Doo, I don't think it's quite fair of a mystery to leave out important information, only to introduce it later to bulk up a thinly-drawn story. Sure, discovery is one thing, but to intentionally leave out clues, characters, puzzle pieces, and plot-points is another. How can you have a Velma "It was Farmer Jenkins!" moment if the guy who did it in the whodunit wasn't even in the first half of the story?

At 57 minutes, a mysterious, ancient VHS tape is found, where the mother shown is shilling for a religious organization and getting a nosebleed.

At 72 minutes, the doctor who makes house calls appears and says, 'It might seem like what we're doing is wrong', which is an understatement, and then there's a sunrise. Now I know what you're going to say. You're going to say, "Hey Stabford, implying that the doctor did it sounds quite a bit like a spoiler, and would negate your claim that the guy who did it wasn't introduced in the beginning of the film."

That shows you how much you know, smarty-pants. There's a big twist and reveal, and the person or persons you thought did it in the first place did it, or did they, but then again, what exactly was done? Karmic retribution of abuse, administered unintentionally, the consequences bumbled through and unconsidered? Heck if I know.

Then someone administers a complex level of medical treatment and an experimental dose of medications under extreme duress and with zero training which seems somewhat unlikely.

Mercy takes a novel approach to a well-worn trope, and it's slow going until it abruptly puts the pedal to the metal. Good and evil, heroes and villains, are all seen through a murky glass, which is fine, I suppose, but I for one would like my nihilism served straight up.




Hmm. After watching that trailer, there was a lot more creaking in it than I remembered. Forget I said anything.

Friday, March 2, 2018

No review this time...

Tom Petty said, 'The waiting is the hardest part', and he's almost right.



In a continuation of a theme from 2017, I've allowed circumstances to dictate my creativity. Throughout the month of February, I either prepared for something to happen, recovered from the thing that happened, or sat in dread waiting for the next thing to happen. That's fine, I suppose.

At the beginning of the month, I had a triumphant trip to Los Angeles, and by "triumphant", I mean, "physically and mentally draining, resulting in caffeine abuse, near starvation, and stultifying boredom".

OK, maybe near starvation is a bit of an exaggeration, because I had plenty of bagels, Romaine lettuce, and Rice Krispy Treats to keep me going. And I might be going a bit over the top as far as boredom goes, because I find myself to be endlessly fascinating, and I can keep myself entertained outside a conference room. And since I slept very little and somehow managed to continue functioning, I couldn't say I was completely physically and mentally drained, because I'm nearly superhuman and can push through any inane Powerpoint presentation when fueled by enough coffee. Unapproved offsite lemon ricotta pancakes and 2 a.m. liquor store Hostess cupcakes can be effective motivators. 

I think I achieved most of my goals. Since time was limited, I could only do so much. Here's a rundown of what I accomplished:

  1. Being completely awesome
  2. Wearing enviable shoes
  3. Going to the Beetlejuice-themed bar
  4. In spite of all attempts from the Corporate offices, continuing to live
  5. Taking corny snapshots of the Walk Of Fame

Please find enclosed corny photos of the Walk Of Fame and my enviable shoes:


The shoes were a provocative statement, inspired by the album Violator by Depeche Mode, featuring the hit singles Policy Of Truth and Enjoy The Silence. Make of that what you will. I'm awfully proud of my shoes' subversive genius.



Overall, I feel the trip was very effective, and I think they got a lot out of my little visit. What I got out of it is immeasurable, and can't be included in a Powerpoint presentation.


Meanwhile, I'm working on some stuff. 








Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Supersizers Go


Currently, I only have 5 unfinished reviews in my drafts, which is pretty great. That does not count all the reviews I discarded in a fit of rage, but who's counting? I've swept the floor, trimmed the dog's toenails, made some soup, well, probably not in that order, but you get the idea. All of these things have been done to keep me from finishing any of those reviews.

Instead, I'm going to knock out this brief review of the television program The Supersizers Go.

Actually, what I'm going to do first is complain about my upcoming trip to Hollywood. Now, don't get excited. It's a stupid business trip, and under no circumstances do I want to go. I'm going to be trapped in all sorts of meetings and conferences from sun-up to sundown, and it's going to be an enormous drag.

To make matters worse, I'm going to be right there on Hollywood Boulevard, trapped in a corporate meeting, forced to eat an inane cheese sandwich, which I was absurdly demanded I order nearly two weeks in advance, and it's not going to be any fun whatsoever. The genius who thought up the idea to proactively order lunch obviously has no idea who they're dealing with. I have the attention span of a gnat, so expect me to change my mind fourteen times on what I want to eat for lunch. I should never have ordered a cheese sandwich. I really should have ordered something else. I was sent a picture-less menu in advance with a deadline. I had a week to think about it. Obviously, I decided at the last moment in a panic, and now I'm filled with cheesy regrets. Why couldn't we have ordered when we arrived? Is this not the Internet Age? Why was this a huge deal? My mind is in a spin. I haven't even had this sandwich yet, and I'm positively sick of it. I'm going to have to blink at people in a corporate setting while eating a soggy cheese sandwich I started hating more than 13 days ago. I have no control over my life.

The sandwich isn't important right now.

Because I'm very sensible, I've prepared for my trip by purchasing outlandish footwear and 80s gothic t-shirts, because I've been told I have to dress business casual and wear a button-down shirt, and I have to wear comfortable shoes, and no one tells me what to wear, and no one tells me to be comfortable. I've never been comfortable in my life, and I'm not starting now. Shoes aren't meant to be comfortable, they're supposed to startle and confuse people, well, at least the pairs I always buy.

I'm going to do business like I always do business, which I suppose means I'm going to be disturbing, alarming, and disruptive, and I'll be doing team building exercises looking like a bearded Nick Cave.

Yes, let's do that trust fall. I'll totally catch you. Don't I look trustworthy?

If I'm allowed to escape, I'm going total tourist on this trip, so if there's any way I can get down to Panpipes Magical Marketplace, I'm going to, which is right down the street from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where I'll be chasing the ghost of Montgomery Clift until all hours, and I might check out Beetle House LA, which is the Beetlejuice themed nightclub and bar, because like just like Mount Everest, I'll go because it's there. These are things that must be done, because I've been to Los Angeles several times, and every time it has sucked. Meetings upon meetings upon meetings. It was just awful. If you were to quiz me on Los Angeles after any of my business trips, I would have to say it's full of chafing dishes.

Because I'm me, I'll probably stage a mutiny during those team building exercises, and drag everyone down to see William Shatner's star on the Walk Of Fame just to be a jerk and to walk off the bloat of that cheese sandwich. I have zero tolerance for corporately mandated fun, and as Groucho Marx said, 'I wouldn't want to be a member of a team that would involve any sort of team building', although I might be paraphrasing, but that's not really what we should be focusing on. I'm going on a really lame trip, and it's going to be tedious and awful unless I do something drastic and cheesy and mutinous. So if I have to go, I'm going all out. But I'd really rather not go.

Speaking of going, let's get back to The Supersizers Go. Sue from The Great British Bake Off relives moments of British history through its food and clothing, and it's absolutely hysterical. Medieval, Restoration, Edwardian, and even the Eighties, are all experienced through period dishes and fashion, and many animals are eaten, and several are sewn together to create entirely new ones, which is ghastly.

The Medieval version of a Turducken.

The banter flies fast and furious, with Sue describing a cake by saying, 'This sponge has the ping and spring of a Jayne Mansfield hooter', and I'm certainly not going to argue with her about it. Sun-dried tomatoes are eaten, Sue regrets some fondue, and the dulcet tones of Spandau Ballet are heard, but don't let that put you off. It's very funny and informative.



Saturday, January 6, 2018

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave


I'm not really one to go into New Year's resolutions, because I think I'm already pretty great, and I don't need much improvement. In fact, I would consider myself a genius, and someone who's pretty stable. Having said that, I'm going to forget I said that, and explain my New Year's resolutions, which involve a lot of self-improvement. Many times last year, I said I would try to post more reviews. Forget I said that. Sure, you could easily look and see that my number of posts were the fewest since the beginning of this blog, but that's not important right now. What is important is that I'm going to post more from now on, but don't hold me to that, because I could easily change my mind. 2018's posts will be the very best ever, as long as you don't look too deeply.

The following post is a review from October I abandoned. It's probably the best of all the posts from last year I abandoned, which certainly isn't saying much, but ignore I said that. Here it is, it exists. Just ignore all the incomplete thoughts, non sequiturs, and 180 degree turns. It's fine. In fact, it's better than fine. It's the best.

Oh yeah, forget I said anything about New Year's resolutions. I need no improvement, and you can't prove it.

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave


No one comes to a church because it caught a bad case of the draculas. A buxom dead chick dangles from a church bell because that's the best place to hide them, I suppose. Inexplicable, random, low-lying fog appears. An elderly monsignor climbs up a mountain carrying an absurdly large golden cross, and his companion, a priestly weakling, flops about. Varying stock lightning occurs, along with varying European villages.

Dracula forces the timid priest to dump a rotten corpse out of coffin so Ol' Drac has a place to sleep, which was actually pretty sweet. Then there's a dreary discussion about a spilled beer. The hero has a anachronistic Roger Daltry-esque haircut, which distracts. A grown woman attempt to sleep with a porcelain doll, then climbs absurdly high rooftops. Someone has several 'shnaps'. Dracula lurks about and glares, and little else.

The movie continues with carriage rides, walking, and multiple rooftops. Finally, Drac gets stabbed a few times, falls, bleeds from the eyes, but forgets to change into a bat to escape his fate.

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is a Hammer film, which is about the best thing going for it, and makes it light-years better than any of the Twilight films, which isn't saying much.



In case you missed it, I rambled on about the sci-fi film Taking Earth over at Cultured Vultures. Check it out.